More than 250 officers swept through Compton and nearby areas in a series of raids, arresting 15 alleged gang members accused of operating the most lucrative PCP ring in Southern California, authorities announced Thursday.
Authorities served search warrants on 22 sites in 10 cities, rousting the alleged leader of the drug ring, Roderick Cardale Reed, from his bed at a residence in Rialto.
Reed, 35, a member of the Fruit Town Piru Bloods whose street moniker is "Lil Rod," is also a suspect in the killings of several associates of rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, detectives said. He has not been charged in those cases.
Reed and the others arrested Wednesday were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute PCP, a crystallized street drug.
The raids mark the culmination of an 18-month federal probe in which authorities confiscated 50 weapons and $117,000 in cash and shut down two drug laboratories in the High Desert capable of producing 140 gallons of PCP a week.
Police also recently seized a cargo van allegedly connected to Reed that they said contained PCP with a street value of $2 million.
The sweep was carried out by the FBI with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the gang unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The agencies are part of the Compton Violent Inner City Crime Initiative, formed in 1998.
According to a federal grand jury indictment, Reed oversaw the illegal purchase of chemicals used to manufacture PCP and set the street price. Detectives had Reed and his associates under surveillance since last November and allegedly saw them buy and transport chemicals to a deserted location in San Bernardino County.
Authorities served search warrants in Compton, Downey, Paramount, Rialto, Apple Valley, Palmdale, Victorville, Fontana, Lancaster and Los Angeles. Most of the individuals arrested Wednesday were members of the Fruit Town gang, based in Compton.In addition to drugs and cash, authorities reported seizing numerous weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, two Tech 9 automatic handguns with silencers, and several shotguns.
Reed, long associated with the Fruit Town gang, has been under investigation in the murders of several associates of Knight, whose Death Row Records launched the global gangsta rap music phenomenon.
A string of gang shootings since 1997 has claimed the lives of three of Knight's closest associates -- including his best friend and chief bodyguard, Alton McDonald.
McDonald was shot at a Compton gas station on April 3, 2002.
Police released sketches of two suspects based on witness descriptions.
Reed has emerged "as a potential suspect in the course of our investigation into the murder of Alton McDonald," said sheriff's Homicide Det. Beth Smith. Investigators are also trying to determine whether Reed was involved in the slaying of a man outside McDonald's house on March 25, 2001, and the shooting of another Knight associate a year earlier.
Reed has not been charged in any of the killings.